Is it time to redefine your relationship with stress? There is a powerful and prevalent myth that the pursuit of a stress-free life would be the ultimate achievement. It’s a myth that is readily marketable from recliner chairs to fidget rings. It’s easy to believe that if only we could achieve that way of being, all the time, everything would fall into place, always.
It stems from an inherent belief and understanding that all stress is harmful. If this belief is true than to eliminate stress would surely lead us to a life of greater, contentment, peace and relaxation. The underlying message here is that stress is the enemy and when you stop to reflect on the times that it has been present for you, it’s not an unreasonable assumption to make, or is it?
What exactly is stress?
Simply put, stress is our reaction to adverse circumstances, when we feel that we are in a situation where we have no or little control and where we may feel threatened or under pressure.
Stress can arise from a variety of life circumstances, including financial worries, a mismatch between our abilities and what is being asked of us, too many responsibilities, too little time and changes in life circumstances.
Stress provides a level of discomfort and whilst our natural inclination is to try to move away from it swiftly or attempt to eradicate it altogether there are times when its presence can be beneficial. Discomfort often precedes growth.
What is the upside?
The upside of stress lies in its ability to act as a catalyst, for action, productivity and creativity.
To quote Leonard Bernstein,
“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan and not quite enough time.”
There are many of us, I am sure, who could testify that we would not have discovered the full extent of our own capabilities had we been spared the life experiences to which Bernstein alludes.
What are the signs of stress in our lives?
Not all stress is recognised by ourselves, or by those close to us. Stress can manifest a wide range of emotions including anxiety, fear, tension, irritation, anger, depression, loneliness or feeling neglected by others.
Sometimes the feelings are more general e.g. a sense of dread or overwhelm, racing thoughts, a loss of interest in life or an inability to enjoy the activities that previously brought you happiness.
When you feel under threat your body slips into emergency mode, eliciting the fight, flight or freeze response by releasing a powerful cocktail of stress hormones. Adrenaline raises your energy supply by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. Cortisol increases the sugar in your bloodstream which enables you to focus more strongly on the stressful situation whilst simultaneously temporarily suppressing your natural non-essential body processes e.g. digestion and tissue repair.
The range of physical symptoms that you may experience as a result of stress is extensive, including fatigue, nausea, panic attacks, chest pains, difficulty breathing, sweating, muscle aches and headaches.
You may experience behavioural changes too, as a result of stress. These include difficulties with concentration, memory and making decisions. There may be significant changes in the amount of exercise you engage in and in your food intake. Smoking, alcohol intake or use of recreational drugs may increase. Emotional responses may become more acute e.g.- you may find that you become more easily irritated or tearful. You may also find yourself withdrawing from spending time with friends and family to spend more time in solitude.
What can you do to mitigate the effects of stress?
We all have coping strategies for stress that we use both consciously and unconsciously. By becoming aware of the specific strategies that we choose we can then take steps to consciously decide to use those that are beneficial to our wellbeing in the long term.
We can classify the coping strategies that we use as adaptive or maladaptive.
Adaptive strategies help you to feel better in the short and long term. They provide healthy and sustainable solutions.
Examples of these include talking to others, engaging in regular exercise, asking for help, journaling, engaging in relaxation activities e.g. yoga, mindfulness, using spiritual practices, finding humour in the situation and confronting problems directly to seek solutions.
Maladaptive strategies are often the strategies that we employ unconsciously. Whilst we may think that they are providing short term relief in reality they are at best unproductive (a “band aid” approach) and at worst, detrimental to our overall wellbeing.
Overeating, ruminating, procrastinating, emotional numbing, self-harm and substance abuse are all examples of this ineffective, short term way of coping.
How can hypnotherapy help you to manage stress?
Through hypnotherapy you can literally “change your mind” in relation to how you respond to and manage stress. Using the power of your subconscious mind I can help you to replace any unhelpful or limiting beliefs that you hold, about yourself, your own abilities or particular situations, with new positive, solution focused ways of thinking that will enable you to move forward. As your way of thinking changes, your actions will change too, and it will become easier to free yourself from any habitual maladaptive strategies in favour of new, adaptive approaches that will enable you to deal with stress more confidently and effectively.
Whilst you cannot wholly eradicate stress from your life, you can take steps to mitigate its negative effects.
Are you ready to redefine your relationship with stress?
Why not contact me today to begin?